Professors Arthur and Elaine Aron have studied how people form deep relationships. Indeed, they have done research into how people can feel an incredible connection with another person in less than an hour. Total strangers to feel like they have known each other for years, connecting more deeply than they do with even some of their closest friends! “Deep Connections” is about practicing this ourselves.

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  1. Ask all the participants to form pairs. Tell them that it’s important that they try to pair up with someone that they don’t really know. It’s best if they choose someone who seems to be very different from them – based on external appearances.
  2. You are going to read seven questions over the next 40 minutes. You can start with the following question: "Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?"
  3. Give each pair about 3 to 5 minutes for each question. (In other words, both people in the pair need to answer the question during this short time.) Sometimes people will finish the question very quickly. Other times they will be so engaged that they will want to keep talking. Unfortunately, you need to move on.
  4. After 3 to 5 minutes, you will announce to the entire group that you are moving to the next question. It’s very important that you ask these in the exact order. Every 3 to 5 minutes, move on to the next question: What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?; When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?; Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?; What is your most treasured memory?; If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?; Share with others an embarrassing moment in your life.
  5. After you have given everyone 3 to 5 minutes for the final prompt, you will close the activity and move to the debrief, which is the most important part of the activity.
  • Because people’s conversations will tend to be animated and loud, it might be useful to have a bell to ring to get everyone’s attention when you need to move on to the next question
  • You can also use a different set of questions or all 36 questions, available here.
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After the activity, ask people if they think it was effective. Did they connect deeply with someone they hadn’t previously known very well? If so, how did that happen?

Solicit responses from people in the room. Usually, people are quite enthusiastic to share the key lessons, which include these:

  • You can connect with people deeply when you are willing to go beyond the surface. In our daily lives, we tend to talk to people on a very superficial level – even our closest friends. We often talk to people about sports, music, movies, TV shows, and gossip. But we rarely ask people about their deepest dreams, values, and treasured memories. This game asks us to go more deeply into what really matters.
  • Most of us wear masks in our lives. We don’t let people see who we really are, because we fear that people will judge us. We want to build ourselves up as strong, beautiful, and perfect. But when you allow yourself to be vulnerable with others, it actually builds up a greater sense of connection and trust.
  • Participants often are surprised to see how they share so much in common with people from completely different cultures and backgrounds. This doesn’t mean that “people are the same all over,” since we still have a tremendous diversity of life experiences, traditions, cultures, habits, and beliefs, which we can celebrate and understand. But it shows that there are many human universals.
  • People sometimes object that this game is so effective only because they are in a structured setting. We have purposefully asked them to sit with just one other person for 45 minutes and discuss these questions. By contrast, it’s hard to go up to someone and say, “Tell me an embarrassing moment from your life!” Nonetheless, the general idea of the game is valid and can be carried over. If we are willing to gradually let down our masks, and be vulnerable, it allows other people to trust us and make deep connections.


Although most people are reluctant to be vulnerable, doing so actually increases trust and connection. According to Dr. Richard Slatcher of UCLA, this activity works because people slowly escalate their levels of disclosure. It helps people build trust by being vulnerable with each other over time. They start by confiding very small things. Over the course of the 45 minutes, they gradually reveal more about themselves. This exercise wouldn’t work well if people just jumped right into the most revealing questions like “What would you change about the way you were raised?”


Arthur and Elaine Aron of the Interpersonal Relationships Lab at the State University of NY, Stony Brook

Additional Readings

Aron, A., Melinat, E., Aron, E. N., Vallone, R., & Bator, R. (1997). The experimental generation of interpersonal closeness: A procedure and some preliminary findings. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 363-377.